Saturday, February 28, 2009

Town Meeting Day Vermont

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The first Tuesday of March is Town Meeting Day here in Vermont. Citizens throughout Vermont get together and elect local officers and vote on budgets. While it doesn't get as much attention as some of the bigger elections, it's still an important day in local politics. This year's Town Meeting Day will be on March 3rd, 2009.

We've put together a simple website,, to aggregate content from social media sites (along with traditional media, where available) around Town Meeting Day Vermont '09. If you use the appropriate tags in your tweets, Flickr uploads, blog (if indexed by Technorati), YouTube uploads, and bookmarks on Delicious, then your content will show up on the website. We're also looking for Atom or RSS feeds specific to Town Meeting Day Vermont '09 from traditional media outlets. If you know of any, or have other suggestions, please email Please be gentle, we put this together in one day's time!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SilverStripe CMS Overview

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Aaron Carlino will giving an overview of the SilverStripe CMS / framework at this week's Burlington, VT PHP Users Group meeting (details). The meeting will be held Thursday February 26th, 2009 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm at Bluehouse Group in Richmond. As always, the meeting is open to the public (but be sure to RSVP so we can get a headcount).

For those new to the group, the local PHP users group has been around for a bit over a year now (our first meeting was in December of 2007). A typical meeting has between 10 and 15 people in attendance and there's usually a main presentation along with some general discussion. The mailing list has about 100 subscribers with moderate traffic (several posts a month) and some of us hang out in the #btvphpug channel on freenode in case you're interested in conversation with local PHP developers between meetings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting Semantic

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In a previous post, What You Need to Know About the Semantic Web, I shared my letter to Harvard Business Review's editor about their recent semantic web article. I realized after I made that post that I should probably have addressed the difference between the Semantic Web (a proper noun) and the semantic web (lower-case). The Semantic Web is a formal extension to the World Wide Web that attempts to add semantic data to the web. There are all sorts of terms and acronyms associated with the Semantic Web such as the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL).

The semantic web (lower-case now) is a more loosely defined term. Generally it refers to a variety of efforts to make the existing web more semantic. The Semantic Web is certainly one part of the semantic web. However, there many other semantic web efforts other than just the Semantic Web project. These efforts often overlap, intertwine, and compete.

My personal favorite semantic web related project is Microformats. Microformats start with making existing web content semantically structured, instead of structured for presentation. See my previous entry on Plain Old Semantic HTML (POSH) for more information on this concept. Microformats then use HTML markup (i.e. elements, classes, ids) to define data structures based on existing formats. For example, the hCard Microformat "is a simple, open, distributed format for representing people, companies, organizations, and places, using a 1:1 representation of vCard (RFC2426) properties and values in semantic HTML or XHTML." There's at least one browser extension that can extract hCard data from web pages. I'd be surprised if search engines haven't already started using this semantic data to better index content.

Another very interesting Microformats related project is XFN (XHTML Friends Network). In Jonathan Butler's recent blog post on CRM, VRM, and the tip of an iceberg he highlighted Tom Ilube's statement that "the semantic web would cut out the intermediary and restore control of personal information to the individuals who are its true owners.” XFN is a great example of this in action. It allows individuals to define their relationships simply using hyperlinks. Taken to an extreme, a global graph can be made of all of these relationships making the "walled gardens" of existing social networking sites obsolete.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Browser Correction

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On last week's The Browser interview (audio) with Jason Pelletier (jason_pelletier) and me, Jonathan Butler (jonathanpb) asked me for an example of a proprietary framework and I used Adobe Flex as an example. It turns out that the Flex SDK is actually not a proprietary framework and is, in fact, open source. I should have known this since Adobe Flex was the topic of a whole PHP users group meeting awhile back. John Boone (jbgoode12) pointed this out to me in an interesting conversation he and I (BradleyHolt) had on Twitter:

jbgoode12: @jonathanpb @BradleyHolt @jason_pelletier listening to ep 2 of The Browser - also very interesting! One correction: the Flex SDK is open src (view tweet)
jbgoode12: @jason_pelletier @BradleyHolt @jonathanpb It's true that the Flex IDE costs $$$ but you can create Flash w/open src: (view tweet)
BradleyHolt: @jbgoode12 Good point! I guess I was thinking about Adobe Flex Builder. Didn't meant to pick on Adobe, just one example of proprietary SW. (view tweet)
BradleyHolt: @jbgoode12 Oh, and thanks for listening to the show, glad you're finding it interesting! (view tweet)
jbgoode12: @BradleyHolt @jason_pelletier It's like how Micro$oft does it : they have open SDKs but the IDEs are $. FB is based on Eclipse, tho (view tweet)
BradleyHolt: @jbgoode12 Yeah - technically open source but to do anything practical takes lots of work or spending money to make it easier. (view tweet)
BradleyHolt: @jbgoode12 But you're right, the framework itself (Flex SDK) certainly appears to be open source. I stand corrected :-) (view tweet)
jbgoode12: @BradleyHolt It'll be interesting to see if an ecosystem grows around the Flex SDK, like maybe the relationship between .NET and Mono... (view tweet)
BradleyHolt: @jbgoode12 That will be interesting to watch. The Flash Player is still proprietary (although there are some alts) which could be a problem. (view tweet)
jbgoode12: @BradleyHolt right. and the flash player being proprietary kinda makes the rest moot... plus you can do a lot with frameworks like jquery. (view tweet)
BradleyHolt: @jbgoode12 I love jQuery! Would be cool (but unlikely) if Adobe truly opened up everything Flash related as open source and open standards. (view tweet)

I appreciate John's correction and love having conversations like the one above. I hope The Browser inspires many more conversations!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

David Gibson on The Browser

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Don't forget to tune into Jonathan Butler's new radio show, The Browser, tonight (Wed Feb 18th) at 6:00pm on Burlington, Vermont's WOMM-LP 105.9 FM The Radiator. He'll be talking with David Gibson of Propeller Media Works. If you're not in Burlington you can always listen online or catch the podcast after the show. The podcast of last week's show that Jason and I were on is available as well as the first episode with Edward Shepard from Small Dog Electronics.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Found Line on The Browser

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Tomorrow night (Wednesday February 11th, 2009) Jason and I will be on Jonathan Butler's new radio show, The Browser. We'll be talking about Found Line, our work, free/open source software, and open standards. We'll also talk a little bit about the Burlington, VT PHP Users Group. You can listen to the show at 6:00pm on Burlington, Vermont's local noncommercial low power FM radio station, WOMM-LP 105.9 FM The Radiator. If you're not in listening range you can catch the show online or get the podcast later.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What You Need to Know About the Semantic Web

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The February 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review has an article in their Breakthrough Ideas for 2009 series that addresses What You Need to Know About the Semantic Web. I was happy to see the semantic web being talked about seriously in a business magazine. I think the author is right when he says that many business will be caught off guard by the semantic web. However, I took issue with the author's implication that the only semantic web technology that mattered was the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and his neglect of other technologies, such as microformats, that may make the semantic web a reality before the RDF vision is complete. Below is a letter I sent to the editor addressing this issue.

Dear Editor:

Tom Ilube is correct when he says that the semantic web is "likely to catch much of the world off guard." He implies that the technology that will first bring about this change is the Resource Description Framework (RDF). A combination of simpler technologies may make the semantic web a mainstream reality before the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) RDF vision is complete. On the web, simple approaches to solving problems often gain traction before more complex ones. In this case these simpler technologies include Representational State Transfer (REST) and microformats. REST is a concept that was introduced by Roy Fielding in 2000. It is an often overlooked, yet fundamental, building block of the web that has gained more recognition in recent years. Microformats are an incremental "pave the cowpaths" approach to adding richer semantic data to the existing web based on established open standards. Granted, microformats don't have the same scope as the W3C's RDF specification and their goals are only somewhat overlapping. However, it is important for readers to be cautious about placing all of their bets on one technology when there is not yet a consensus as to what technology (or combination of technologies) will make the semantic web revolution a reality.

Bradley Holt
Technical Director & Co-Founder
Found Line
Burlington, Vermont

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Found Line Capabilities

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Our meetings with potential clients tend to be pretty informal. We've never done a "pitch" presentation to a prospective client. Taking care of our existing clients is more important to us than putting tons of effort into wooing new clients. This has worked well for us since the vast majority of our business has come through word of mouth. However, our business has matured a lot since we started four years ago. Our capabilities are constantly evolving and growing. Because of this, people that we've built and maintained long term relationships with may not be aware of our current capabilities in web, print & strategy. So, Jason and Liz (with a little help from me) have put together the embedded Found Line Capabilities presentation. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Browser

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A new radio show, The Browser, will be debuting on Burlington, Vermont's airwaves tonight. The show is about "all things online" from a local perspective. The host is Jonathan Butler and his first guest is Ed Shepard, Marketing & Design Manager for Small Dog Electronics. You can listen to the show at 6:00pm on our local noncommercial low power FM radio station, WOMM-LP 105.9 FM The Radiator. If you're out of range, you can listen online or catch the podcast once it's published.